Daycare and the Spoiled Child

On Monday when I picked Beanie up from daycare, I walked into the nursery and all of the lights were turned off. The room was empty, except for Beanie and his teacher. They were sitting in a rocking chair. Beanie was all bent over and staring at the wall. His teacher was rocking him, wild-eyed, and patting his bottom.

It was a strange scene.

“Where is everyone?” I asked.

“They are in the other room,” the teacher said in a whisper.

So I lowered my voice to a whisper, too. “Well, what’s going on in here?”

“This is the only thing I could do to get him to stop crying this afternoon,” she said. And after a pause she added, “We really need to talk.”

So, I took a seat on the floor next to Beanie and listened as his teacher described Beanie’s recent behavior at daycare. He was crying to be held all the time. If they put him down, he yelled. And if they dared to pick up another baby, well, he flipped his little self out.

As I listened to all of this, I started flashing back to events over the past few weeks at our house.   I remembered all those times Beanie would start crying bloody murder and when I reached to pick him up, he’d stop crying all of a sudden and break into a laugh.   And I remembered him crying every time I got up from where he was playing to go answer the phone or let the dogs out or flip through the mail.   Visions of Beanie throwing tiny little temper tantrums every time he was left alone floated through my brain.

And then more visions followed.   Visions of me going to Beanie every, single time he cried and picking him up.   Visions of me trying to pack a diaper bag, my lunch, Beanie’s bottles, in the morning all while toting Beanie around on my hip in order to keep him from crying.   Visions of me PULLING THE CAR OVER ON THE SIDE OF THE ROAD to soothe Beanie when he was crying in his car seat.

All of these things flooded my brain as I listened to Beanie’s teacher describe the behavior of a spoiled child.   And then I realized what was going on.

I had spoiled Beanie.

Spoiled him rotten.

But how could this have happened?   I cannot stand a spoiled child.   It never even occurred to me that I could even have a spoiled child because I was so adamantly against it.   Beanie would never be the center of attention.   He would never be controlling.   Or manipulative.   Or any of those terrible things that spoiled children are.   He was my son.   And I would not spoil him.

And yet here we were, four months into the game, and I’m being held after school to talk about MY CHILD’s behavior.

Of course, his teacher would never have come right out and called him spoiled and when she spoke to me, she did it in a spirit of collaboration.   It felt more like she was wanting us to talk about how WE could fix this, instead of blaming me or expecting me to correct the problem on my own.   She suggested that at school and at home, when he starts fussing and we know that everything else is okay – he’s full, he’s changed, he’s rested – we should let him fuss for about 10 minutes to see if he can learn to entertain or soothe himself.   I told her that that sounded like a good idea and I thanked her for talking to me about it before the daycare started taking any kind of action.   At the end of the day, he is my son and parenting techniques should come from the parents.   But I so appreciated that she took the time to talk to me about it.

And then, mortified, I grabbed the diaper bag, lowered my head, and carried Beanie out the door.

“Come on, BEAN,” I said.   Beanie, of course, was all smiles now.

On my way home as I listened to Beanie babbling in his car seat, I tried to understand how this had happened.   Its not so much the issue that bothered me – I mean, he’s only four months old.   Its not like he’s scarred for life.   But it was how this even became an issue when I had made such an effort to avoid this.   I KNOW you aren’t supposed to pick a baby up every time they cry.   I KNOW they have to learn how to be by themselves and self-soothe.

So how had I messed up?

Well, for one thing, Beanie is only four months old.   I really didn’t think we had to worry about holding him too much right now because I didn’t think he was old enough to manipulate us.

(That’s right, Beanie.   I said manipulate, you stink pot.)

But when I said this to Beanie’s teacher, she just started laughing.   “Oh, honey,” she said.   “Babies are born manipulators!”   It was so harsh, but so true.   At the ripe old age of four months old, Beanie had already learned that if he started fussing, Mom and Dad would come get him.   Or play with him.   Or move him somewhere else.   Or whatever he wanted.

Chris and I had become pawns.   Peons.   Suckers.


Aside from the age thing though, there is the guilt.   (sigh)   I’m learning that 90% of what motivates mothers is guilt.   Maybe even 95%.   I feel guilty that I don’t seem him all day long and so when I get home from work and have only about two hours with him before bedtime, I don’t want anything to go wrong.   I want him to love being with me.   I want him to love being with me more than he loves being at daycare.   So, I hold him.   And I jump when he cries.   And I carry him around on my hip.   I do anything it takes to make sure that those two hours are the happiest hours of his day.

(P.S.   I just started crying on my keyboard.   Oh, Parenting, why are you so darn hard?)

(P.S.S.   I just found a Hershey kiss in my desk drawer, so I feel better now.)

So, this week, Chris and I have really been working on it at home.   I’m learning so much now.   Picking up Beanie is actually taking the easy way out.   When he starts fussing now, I still go sit with him, but I don’t pick him up.   I play with him or I talk to him instead and usually he settles right back down.   Sometimes, I don’t even go to him.   I just let him fuss around for a couple minutes and before I know it, he’s found his foot or something and life is grand again.

Tuesday was the first day back at daycare after The Talk and for the first time since Beanie’s first week at daycare, I cried on my way to work.   I mean, its one thing to parent Beanie at home, but its another to feel like someone ELSE will be parenting him during the day.   Even if his teachers are wonderfully sweet people and even if I know they certainly aren’t going to be any less attentive to him than they always are, it still burned just a little bit that it wouldn’t be ME working with him.

(P.S.   I’m crying again.)

(P.S.S.   I just found a Jolly Rancher in my desk drawer, so I feel better now.)

(P.S.S.S.   I really need to clean out my desk drawer.)

After the sadness of dropping Beanie off passed, I started thinking about how glad I was that he was in daycare.   Isn’t that a funny contradiction?   I hate that someone else spends so much time with him during the day, but I also love the fact that someone else knows him ALMOST as well as I do.   Its especially nice because I live so far away from my family to have someone be able to say to me, “Here, let’s work on this together.”   Suddenly, it didn’t feel like just me and Chris against the world, but more like we had a team to help us out.

What’s that saying?   It takes a village?   Well, I think sometimes it takes a daycare.

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40 Thoughts to “Daycare and the Spoiled Child”

  1. Hilary

    I also like that my daughter goes to daycare and her sitter is so awesome. Don’t feel bad about Beanie’s behavior. That will come and go. Yesterday, we were told that our precious little angel was hitting other kids and that when the sitter tried to correct her behavior, she hit the sitter. Talk about mortified! The sitter was so nice, she told us not to worry, but that it was just something for us to be aware of. Oh, I’m aware of it. At home, she takes swipes at me and hubby (but mainly me) but she never did it at daycare until yesterday. Today, before we took her, we explained in the car ride over that hitting was NOT acceptable and if she wanted other kids to play with her, she needed to stop being a bully. Now, she’s 18 months old so most of it was incoherent to her but we got a good report today so maybe the talk worked? Anyway, just know you’re not alone!

  2. Beanie's Nana


    1. Katie

      I can’t immmmagine where he’s gotten so spoiled, NANA….

  3. Ashley

    Ok, so like all other posts, I LOVE THIS ONE! I work every afternoon at a daycare here in Troy. From 2:30-5 I have my own class of seventeen, four year olds. Some days it’s very challenging, while other days it’s a walk in the park. I really enjoy working with children because they always remind me of the simple things in life, and always greet me at the door with hugs and kisses!

    Just wanted to say hang in there! I think you are doing everything just fine, and totally understand where you are coming from! At least you care and take the advice of the daycare workers; I cant say that for all parents 🙁 Beaner will turn out just FINE!
    P.S. I loved the whole desk drawer/candy thing!!
    P.S.S. Tell Chris to live a litte and make out with you in the driveway of your own house :):)

  4. Sending you a TimTam and a big ol’ hug

  5. I wouldn’t beat yourself up too much. I’m firmly in the “you can’t spoil a baby” camp. BUT you can definitely teach them to learn to calm down. I recently figured out that I need to learn more about my baby. If he starts fussing I automatically go to him, but he’s grown up so much already in three months. Fussing used to turn into crying which turned into SOMEONE’S KILLING ME MOM! so of course he needed to be picked up. The other day I left him in his crib and he fussed but I couldn’t get to him immediately. When I did, he was passed out cold. Not only did he go to sleep on his own, he had calmed himself down. It’s a step. I’m glad you’ve found what works for you, but I wouldn’t worry about spoiling the baby. Sometimes picking them up is just as much for you as it is for them. =) You’re a great mommy!

  6. Nana’s comment cracked me up. Levi’s Glamma is the same way. We have started letting Levi “fuss it out” in his crib at night instead of rocking him to sleep, and I’m telling you, it’s.been.sheer.torture. I want to run in, pick him up, cover his face in kisses, rock him and tell him “mommy’s here…mommy’s here”. But Husby doesn’t let me. And it’s hard.

    But know that we are ALL in this together. Going through the same exact issues and for you and me, at the exact same times. So hangeth thou in there! And I can say with absolute certainty that Beanie’s favorite time of the day, hands down, is his two hours with you before bedtime. I guarantee it.

    1. Elizabeth

      I say: Moms, trust your instinct!! If you want to pick that baby up, you pick that baby up! They won’t be little forever and won’t always want to be held–enjoy it while you can! They will eventually learn to sleep on their own and self-soothe. I’m a firm believer that babies cannot manipulate. How can you spoil a baby by holding him? Perhaps by buying too many toys or giving in to every little whim as they get older. But, when they want their mommy, human touch, how is that spoiling them to give it to them? I highly recommend “The Attachment Parenting Book” by Dr. Sears. I think our culture forces babies to be independent too early!

  7. 1. I am not a mother and therefore have no encouraging motherly words to help you feel like you’re not alone. But I’m sure you’re not alone.

    2. So that I might help in SOME way, I will now confess that I, too, just wrote a post that caused me to cry giant tears which, in turn, dripped all over my keyboard. So at least in that, you’re not alone.

    3. Do you feel less alone now?

    4. Your child is adorable.

  8. Oh, NANA! You are the best. You sound just like GRANAMAMAMAMAMA, the grandma of my sister’s only child. She leaves comments just like that on my blog all the time, and I don’t even HAVE a kid. You two would get along splendidly.

  9. Katie, I read this post & giggled – because I could see myself doing the exact same thing when I have kids…
    and then I kind of started to hyperventilate. I mean, you were freakin’ crying on your keyboard!! I do this now when a commercial pulls on my heartstrings or when a student turns in an essay vivid in detail or when I feel like a complete failure as a teacher. Read: I CRY ALL THE TIME. I’m a crier. I’m emotional. And yes, I will be the FIRST to admit this.
    So, as I read your post and giggled because I saw myself in you – I got really, really, apprehensive. I have this dread I will be a weepy mess when my husband & I have kids because I’m already emotional.
    In all seriousness though, from what I have read, you are a brilliant mother who is honest with herself about mistakes & victories. I don’t think Beanie could or should ask for anything more. 🙂

  10. Sarah H.

    All of my friends who have kids either stay home with them or a close relative watches the child. So the only thing I really know about day care is from the child’s perspective–meaning my own. My sister and I went to day care from about 6 weeks-6th grade. So I appreciate your honesty, because most likely my futrue children will also be going to day care. Thanks 🙂

  11. Dangit, Katie! You almost made me cry at work. I can totally relate with what you’re feeling having a daycare baby myself.

    1. Katie

      I miss your blog. Have I told you that? I miss it. Sometimes I go there just to re-read things because I miss it that much. BLOG AGAIN, LADY!

  12. Tressa

    First, I have to say, how could one NOT spoil Beanie rotten?! He is so darn cute. I even left a comment that I could help spoil him rotten!!

    My kids are 21 and 19. Raising them I taught, lived and breathed my motto “Say what you mean and mean what you say”. Children have to know the line and if they cross it, they know there will be consequences. This, of course, doesn’t work with a 4 month old, I’m just trying to say that kids can be spoiled and still be respectful and polite. It’s so much easier to give in and not follow through, but well worth sticking out with the “mean what you say”. I have watched some of my siblings parent their kids and now with teenagers they have their hands full because they gave in and didn’t follow through with the consequences.
    I’m sorry I rambled on!
    Good luck! I’m sure you, Chris and Beanie will handle this just fine. You all three are in it together!
    Have a great day! 🙂

  13. Jen

    Awe Katie- your awesome! Your awesome for making us other Mom’s realize we are not alone in our crazy feelings and messy desk drawers. Thanks!

  14. Emily

    After reading this post I’m looking for a baby to hold and digging through my desk for chocolate….haven’t found either! I love Nana’s comment…lucky Bean! 🙂

  15. what else you got in that desk drawer?

  16. You know it is funny–I read all of this stuff when our babies were born on how you can’t spoil a baby in the first 6 months, even though when we were growing up things were different. I don’t know what to believe…

    Letting our little guy fuss is hard, especially at bedtime when we watch him in the video monitor and try to decide if we should go up and comfort him…now? How ’bout now…?

    Isn’t the motherly guilt thing the WORST?! I just talked all about it at my counselling session today and launched right into the waterworks…I feel your pain, sister.

  17. Diane C

    Wow as a new mom myself I can totally relate. I’m a stay at home mom so it is easy to just go pick up my monkey bean when she starts crying but I’ve had to learn to let her soothe herself. I just wish that the motherly guilt would go away. It does get easier as they get older.

  18. i support you in whatever you choose to do, because i am no expert and i certainly think that as his mom you know in your heart what is best.
    i would not be so hard on yourself, though. all this time as you have been learning as a first time mom, you were doing your very best. you never did anything intentionally wrong and you never will.
    the fact of the matter is, Katie, just like you said in a previous post… people are ALWAYS judging you. you cant do it all right according to everyone. one person will say letting kids cry is abuse, another will say its spoiling to pick up a crying kid. and when you choose one way the other will seem more logical. (I KNOW BECAUSE I AM CURRENTLY BATTLING MANY OF THESE ISSUES).
    i say trust your heart. Beanie is not screwed up in the least, in my opinion. he has a fabulous pair of parents and a whole heap of love. and thats really all he needs.
    my kid has been through many a phases. and one of them was a need to be held phase. perhaps if you are lucky it is only a stage of his life.
    i wish you the best in your endeavors and just know, i got your back. (so comforting coming from a private blog person who lives across the united states, right? i know.)

  19. Maybe he is teething, and just doesn’t feel well, and would rather be held 🙂 Sounds good, and it’s always easier to blame it on something like that… then think that we did something wrong( which holding your baby “too much” is never wrong!!) 🙂

  20. I can only imagine I’ll be exactly the same way when I have a baby. I am totally a “tough love” type of person in my normal life. But I feel like with a baby, I’m going to throw all of that out the window. It DOES seem like he’s too young to be manipulative… but clearly this is the naive woman with no children talking!

    Good luck letting him cry it out… You’re doing the right thing!

  21. Heather

    I think you need to give yourself a parenting-pat-on-the back for developing this self-awareness of your progress at such an early point in your parenting journey!

    The important thing is not whether you were spoiling your child or not, but rather that you listened to his other caretakers SO well and collaboratively and that you identified that he has different learning needs than you realized (that he needs to learn to self-soothe), and that you are anticipating and reacting to his changing needs.

    Good Job, and good luck to you!

  22. KP

    He’s only this little once so I can see how you can’t resist picking him up. I would be wrapped around his finger!!!

  23. I frankly see nothing wrong with picking up and holding him all the time. I wouldn’t say he’s spoiled either. But that is me and that is how I will be with my kids.
    Also, if I was working for the daycare I would hold a kid all day if it meant he didn’t cry. But that is me and that is how I would work in a daycare.

    To each his own. You do what you think is best. If you, Chris and Michael are happy, I’m happy for you!

  24. Ohhh – I can totally relate! I am going back to work in three weeks, and you literally have to pry my two-month-old son out of my hands every night. It’s like I can’t spend enough time with him and he knows it – the little fox. My husband warns me that he is getting a little spoiled, but I can’t help it. I am better about letting him fall asleep on his own, but during the day, the littlest fuss gets the full mommy-dance-around-the-house routine.

    We are having a sitter come to the house at least until he turns 1. I wonder what it will be like when he makes the transition from being the king of the castle to a member of a group.

  25. Happy 4 months Bean 🙂

    1. Katie

      You’re so thoughtful! Beanie says thank you!

  26. Mom of 3

    I truly believe that you can’t spoil a baby. He’s not being manipulative, he’s communicating in the only way he knows how. He’s saying, “Mommy, I love you. You’re so safe and comfy, please hold me.” They grow up so fast. Hold him and snuggle him while you can!! In the future, if you get to the point where you want to let him cry at night, please read “The No-Cry Sleep Solution” by Elizabeth Pantley before you do the hard core Ferber method. It may not work as quickly, but it’s sure less traumatic (for the mommy too).

    1. Katie

      Thanks for the encouragement. That’s exactly what I picture him saying, too!! Actually, Beanie’s put himself to sleep since he was about a month old. Its just the day time routine we’re working with. We’ll see how long I can last! 🙂

    2. Elizabeth

      Amen and well said!

  27. Laura

    Hang in there! I’m not a child expert, but it sounds to me like you’re doing a great job juggling everything!

  28. You poor thing! I loved reading this post though because I’m due to have my first little one in a few months and I’m not quite sure what I’m doing. It’s nice to know that most of us are just trying to figure it out as we go. 🙂

  29. I am not a mother but I work full-time in an infant/toddler program at a daycare. Thank you so much for being receptive to what Beanie’s care provider told you. And so willing to work with them. Not a lot of people respect the unique position care providers are put in. We know that we spend more time with your child than you do sometimes. Trust me, it’s hard for us to make that realization too. We only want the best for your child and to help support you. I can only imagine how hard it must be to be leaving him at such a young age. Trust in your care provider because she has probably seen everything when it comes to babies. We’re here to support families! 🙂

  30. That’s really silly advice and hardly scientific. Babies are made to be held and don’t manipulate. I would love to see the daycare provider’s studies. Check this out.

    More importantly, it’s good to hold your baby a lot after being separated all day.

    An in-home provider may be able to provide more attention to your baby.

    However, you get to make the tough choices. And you blog about them so we ALL get to give our 2 cents. Hope it doesn’t make it harder.

    1. Katie

      Hearing thoughts never makes decision harder. Only more informed. Thanks for the feedback! 🙂

  31. Keiko

    I just want to say I love your blog! Haven’t been here for awhile cause life got in the way 😛 almost forgot how much I really enjoy reading your posts!! But this one hit home. Lately, I’ve been struggling with ‘guilt’. Like a lot. I feel like I should be doing more with Serena, or that I could do this and that better, or I feel extremely guilty for constantly feeling tired and not giving her my undivided attention. (And yes, some of these ‘worries’ may be a bit ridiculous). A great friend of mine told me that this guilt and being able to acknowledge where we could be doing better is what makes us great moms 🙂 And even if he was just saying that to make me feel better, it took off a little bit of the pressure. In the end, our kids are smiling, happy children who grow up in a loving environment. You are doing an amazing job! Don’t doubt yourself 🙂 Take a look at Beanie – he is a reminder of what a great mom you really are! Just from his smiles in the pictures you can tell he is one happy kid and knows that he is loved by two great parents.

  32. Tami Danielle

    I enjoyed reading your blog. I’m going through the same thing myself with my 7 week old. I do believe that babies are smart enough to “manipulate” Mom and/or Dad into responding to their every whim…at least mine is. 🙂

    My daisy fusses and screams to the high Heavens whenever I put her down. I’ve been working on putting her down and leaving her until she starts fussing…and then picking her up again to calm her.

    I’m up to 5 minutes of no fussing before having to pick her up!

    After reading your blog I’m considering leaving her in her swing or lounger fussing for a few minutes (not more than 3 or 4…she’s only a baby:) before coming to her rescue. Once she’s older – 3 or 4 months – then I’ll leave her there – clean, safe, and fed – for 10 minutes, like you did.

    I, too, did not want a “spoiled” child…but my daisy is certainly getting “ripe,” so I’d better nip this thing in the bud before it becomes unbearable.

  33. Sincora

    I love your blog.i read it because I’m thinking of putting my 6 month old in daycare but I start crying just thinking of husband is in the military so it’s always me and her.She goes to him but watches me the whole time and can be with him without me for a few but then want me.So I don’t think daycare is going to work .How can I prepare both of us for daycare :0(

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